Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra

Kollaps Tradixionales (Constellations, 02.2010)

For: Godspeed!, Led Zepelin, Evangelista

Byline: Seven tracks of blues-inspired balladry that range in tone from terrifying to triumphant. Efrim Menuck and Co.’s sixth album finds a workable mixture of the older neo-classical post-rock and recent classic rock leanings. Originally published on www.inyourspeakers.com. Used by permission from In Your Speakers, LLC.

After close to ten years as the de facto frontman of arguably one of the best rock and roll bands ever, followed by another decade as the reluctant frontman for Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra*, Efrim Menuck’s devastatingly wide-eyed observations of society from its periphery have cut an indelible impression into the indie rock landscape. On his latest offering Menuck and Co. continue their evolution from neo-classical, traditional Jewish folk-inspired compositions to the vocal-centric blues and classic rock marriage of their earlier art-folk leanings with powerful wall-of-noise anthems. Kollaps Tradixionales is Silver Mt. Zion’s sixth album and is their strongest since 2001’s Born Into Trouble As Sparks Fly Upward. The new decade finds the newly reformatted quintet at their most visceral, their most paranoid, and ultimately their most hopeful.

Silver Mt. Zion has the uncanny ability to wrap dreadful foreboding with a sense of hope, found in concepts of communalism and humanity. Menuck balances these contrasting ideas of dread and hope by drawing on his own sense of spiritual communion with a close-knit Jewish community and the perennial pessimism of the life of an outsider in contemporary Kanadian culture. Kollaps Tradioxionales’ emotional impact, while hardly the manufactured catharsis of post-rock, is nuanced to say the least, making me rethink my claim that this is Silver Mt. Zion at their most hopeful. The album is structured with two lengthy tracks bookending two loud rock songs and a loosely-held-together suite.

Tradioxionales starts with what is arguably one Mt. Zion’s most anthemic and triumphant songs to date. Clocking in at a little over fifteen minutes, “There is a Light” is remarkably live sounding. The sound of an electric guitar being plugged into an amp starts the song before a mournful single guitar pierces the wall of static while a refugee church organ shudders to life in the background. Menuck’s haggard, frazzled voice follows his guitar’s inflection like a shuffling funeral procession. The track peaks with huge, swelling crescendos and bottoms out in dirge-like, post-classical breakdowns of horns, saxophones, and strings, only to climb again in unhinged climaxes. Menuck counterpoints the triumphant middle-point of the song by delivering one of his most overwhelming lines yet, “There ain’t no truth/but the no truth, but the not truth/ yeah!/ There ain’t no thing/but the nothing, but the nothing/ yeah!” Being recorded live, Efrim’s vocal chords begin to wear out after his twelve plus minutes of screaming at the top of his lungs in an evangelistic revelry. By end of the track they sound haggard and grating, the heavy breathing of a televangelist.

Following “There is a Light,” the beguilingly titled “I Built Myself a Metal Bird” and by “I Fed My Metal Bird the Wings of Other Metal Birds” come charging out of the gates with disorienting 7/4 time signatures and downright punk swagger. Silver Mt. Zion has always claimed that bands like Black Flag and Minutemen helped define their sonic palate, and with the release of this longtime crowd favorite they finally wear their influences on their sleeve.

Thee Silver Mt. Zion is a difficult band to love, the stylistic whiplash between Zepelin guitar excesses, traditional Eastern European folk music, and neo-classical segues of atonal guitar and cello is often overwhelming. Ultimately though, Silver Mt. Zion produces beautiful music. It is the type of beauty that can encompass the most glorious anthems set to lilting violins and thunderous drums. Bleak tales of lost hope and the abandoned vestiges of society. Kollaps Tradixionales is a diasporic outgrowth of love and terror, of fear and rebirth.

*Also known as: A Silver Mt. Zion, The Silver Mt. Zion Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band, Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra and Tra-La-La Band with Choir, and Thee Silver Mountain Reveries.

Ryan H.

See full review at: www.inyourspeakers.com

Not exactly an official music video but someone orchestrated scenes from Antonioni's film Zabriskie Point to "I Built Myself A Metal Bird". Pretty rad.

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